1374.) Revelation 9

August 7, 2014

Rev9 scorpion

Revelation 9  (NRSV)

And the fifth angel blew his trumpet,

This is the fifth angel that sounded a trumpet. There were seven seals, followed – thematically if not chronologically – by seven trumpets. In their arranged order, they are similar.

The first four seals and trumpets presented judgments directed against the earth. In the first four seals, these were the “four horsemen” bringing tyranny, war, famine, and death on the earth. In the first four trumpets, these were the ecological destruction of the vegetation, seas, fresh waters, and sky.

The last three seals focused upon heaven: the cry of the martyrs, cosmic disturbances, and the heavenly prelude to the seven trumpets. The last three trumpets will speak of hell, in terms of the demonic.

–David Guzik (and all comments in red)

and I saw a star that had fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit;

A star that had fallen:  One of the fallen angels?  Satan himself?  Someone else entirely?  Opinions vary.

And from your friendly English teacher! — The falling of the star and its trail of destruction are recorded in the English word disaster, aster being the Latin word for star.  A disaster is a fallen star.

he opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft. Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given authority like the authority of scorpions of the earth.

“A visual representation of the hordes of demons loosed upon the earth.”

–John F. Walvoord

They were told not to damage the grass of the earth or any green growth or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were allowed to torture them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torture was like the torture of a scorpion when it stings someone. And in those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will flee from them.

Their purpose and period is expressly governed by God, to bring repentance (see verses 20-21).  Death will offer no escape from this prolonged torture. Their power is described like the power of scorpions, and the bite of a scorpion, though extremely painful, is rarely fatal.

In appearance the locusts were like horses equipped for battle. On their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces, their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth; they had scales like iron breastplates, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle. 10 They have tails like scorpions, with stingers, and in their tails is their power to harm people for five months.

Don't take it so literally!

Don’t take it so literally!

“There can be no specific answer to the question of exactly who or what is symbolized by the plague of locusts. All we can know for sure is that in the period immediately before the end the wicked will be subjected to a time of unprecedented demonic torment. Exactly how this will take place will remain unknown until disclosed by history itself.”

–Robert H. Mounce

11 They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon (meaning Destruction), and in Greek he is called Apollyon (meaning Destroyer).

Their king:  One of the fallen angels?  Satan himself?  Someone else entirely?  Opinions vary.

12 The first woe has passed. There are still two woes to come.

13 Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God, 14 saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.”

The Euphrates River

The Euphrates River

These angels were connected with the Euphrates River because the Euphrates was a landmark of ancient Babylon. It was the frontier of Israel’s land as fully promised by God (Genesis 15:17-21). It was also the boundary of the old Roman Empire, which will be revived under the Antichrist.

The Euphrates is also associated with the first sin (Genesis 2:10-14), the first murder (Genesis 4:16), the first organized revolt against God (Genesis 11:1-9), the first war confederation (Genesis 14:1), and the first dictatorship (Genesis 10:8-10).

15 So the four angels were released, who had been held ready for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, to kill a third of humankind. 16 The number of the troops of cavalry was two hundred million; I heard their number. 17 And this was how I saw the horses in my vision: the riders wore breastplates the color of fire and of sapphire and of sulfur; the heads of the horses were like lions’ heads, and fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths. 18 By these three plagues a third of humankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths. 19 For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; their tails are like serpents, having heads; and with them they inflict harm.

This is a powerful picture of horror, destruction, and demonic association.

20 The rest of humankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands or give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk. 21 And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their fornication or their thefts.

Almost hard to believe — but it was business as usual for those who remained. 



Amid all these awful images of a dark future, there is one thing to remember, and  HERE  it is in a song by Point of Grace, an all-female contemporary Christian music group.  We can face what is coming in our lives unafraid, for “Jesus Will Still Be There.”


New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)   New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


1373.) Revelation 8

August 6, 2014
"Seven Angels, Seven Trumpets" by Pat Marvenko Smith

“Seven Angels, Seven Trumpets” by Pat Marvenko Smith

Revelation 8  (NRSV)

The Seventh Seal and the Golden Censer

When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

The sealed scroll was introduced in Revelation 5, and the seals were opened one by one up to the sixth seal in Revelation 6. We waited for the last seal to be opened and the contents of the scroll to be revealed — but then were given a pause with Revelation 7, the revealing of the 144,000 and the great multitude out of the great tribulation. Now the idea of a pause between the sixth and the seventh seal is emphasized by this silence in heaven for about half an hour.

This silence is striking; some have seen it as “breathing space,” or, that the angels are silent so the prayers of the saints can be heard, perhaps even the cry of the martyrs of Revelation 6:9-11.  Or perhaps this silence in heaven demonstrates a sober, awestruck silence at the judgments to come, now that the seals are off and the scroll can be opened.

–David Guzik

And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.

Another angel with a golden censer came and stood at the altar; he was given a great quantity of incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar that is before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.

Rev8 evening-sacrifice

Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth; and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.

The Seven Trumpets

Now the seven angels who had the seven trumpets made ready to blow them.

The first six trumpets introduce new convulsions of nature, in judgment upon the wicked (compare the plagues of Egypt).  These calamities are not consecutive nor are they to be taken literally.  (The New Oxford Annotated Bible)

The first angel blew his trumpet, and there came hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were hurled to the earth; and a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.

1)  A plague on vegetation

The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea became blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.

2)  A plague on the sea

10 The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. 11 The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many died from the water, because it was made bitter.

3)  A plague on fresh waters

12 The fourth angel blew his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of their light was darkened; a third of the day was kept from shining, and likewise the night.

4)  A plague on the heavens, and darkness on earth

13 Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew in midheaven, “Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!”

These first four trumpets reveal the severity of God’s judgment. He attacks all the ordinary means of subsistence, such as food and water; and He attacks all the ordinary means of comfort, and knowledge, such as light and the regular rhythm of days.

The first four trumpets also reveal the mercy of God’s judgment; these are partial judgments striking only one-third, and are meant to warn and lead a rebellious world to repentance before the final curtain. For now, God spares more than He smites.

–David Guzik



I have long loved the image of prayers rising to the Lord in heaven as the smoke of incense rises.  HERE  is a song to that effect from Hillsong — “Like Incense.”


New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)   New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.



1372.) Revelation 7

August 5, 2014
 “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?”

“Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?”

Revelation 7  (NRSV)

The 144,000 of Israel Sealed

Chapter 7 is an interlude between the sixth and seventh seals: two visions (vv. 1-8 and vv. 9-17) which provide assurance that God’s people are secure from the plagues and judgments.  (The New Oxford Annotated Bible)

After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth so that no wind could blow on earth or sea or against any tree. I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to damage earth and sea, saying, “Do not damage the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have marked the servants of our God with a seal on their foreheads.”

And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred forty-four thousand,

We are not told what exactly their service is, but the 144,000 are sealed for a specific and unique purpose. However, the general idea of being sealed is not limited to them.

Jesus was sealed: God the Father has set His seal on Him. (John 6:27)

We are sealed with the Holy Spirit as a down payment of our eventual total redemption. Paul wrote: God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)

This sealing of the Holy Spirit belongs to every believer when they are saved: having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. (Ephesians 1:13)

The sealing of the Holy Spirit is meant to be both a comfort and a challenge to us. We are comforted in that it assures us that we belong to Him. We are challenged by it to depart from all evil and identify ourselves with the One we belong to: Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” (2 Timothy 2:19)  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30)

–David Guzik

sealed out of every tribe of the people of Israel:

From the tribe of Judah twelve thousand sealed,
from the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Gad twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Asher twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Levi twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand sealed.

Many Bible scholars regard the 144,000 as converted Jews, who are still identified as Israelites in some manner. They are the beginning harvest of the salvation of Israel.

Romans 11:26 (NRSV)

And so all Israel will be saved; as it is written,

“Out of Zion will come the Deliverer;
    he will banish ungodliness from Jacob.”

(There are alternative interpretations:  the Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, once said their entire group were these sealed ones, until they surpassed 144,000 in number. Now they say that the 144,000 are only a select group of Witnesses who go to heaven.)

–David Guzik

The Multitude from Every Nation

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying,

“Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

11 And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 singing,

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honor
and power and might
be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

A hymn of praise from the multitude of humans leads to a sevenfold declaration of adoration from the angels.

–Ian Boxall

13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

The great tribulation (ordeal in NRSV) refers to that expected time of trial which God’s people would undergo in the last days.  For the early Christians, this was believed to have begun with the death and resurrection of Christ.  This vision assures the churches that, far from being overwhelmed by this, they will be enabled to pass safely through it.  Their local difficulties are incorporated into a larger picture by what John sees.  Generations of Christians ever since have found the same inspiration to hold to the values of the Lamb.

–Ian Boxall

15 For this reason they are before the throne of God,
    and worship him day and night within his temple,
    and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.
16 They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
    the sun will not strike them,
    nor any scorching heat;
17 for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,
    and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”



“Behold a Host” is in my top three favorite hymns, and the words are based on a question and answer from this chapter.  This beautiful melody is a Norwegian folksong; Edvard Grieg later made an arrangement of it.  The words were put together as early as the mid-1700’s.  This hymn was sung at my mother’s funeral and will be, I hope, sung at mine.   HERE  it is performed by the Mandal Kantori, a church choir from Mandal, Norway.

Den Store Hvide Flok (Behold a Host)

1 Behold a host, arrayed in white,
Like thousand snow-clad mountains bright!
With palms they stand;
Who is this band
Before the throne of light?
Those are the saints of glorious fame,
Who from the great affliction came
And in the flood
Of Jesus’ blood
Are cleansed from guilt and shame.
They now serve God both day and night;
They sing their songs in endless light.
Their anthems ring
As they all sing
With angels shining bright.

2 Despised and scorned, they sojourned here;
But now, how glorious they appear!
Those martyrs stand,
A priestly band,
God’s throne forever near.
On earth they wept through bitter years;
Now God has wiped away their tears,
Transformed their strife
To heav’nly life,
They now enjoy the Sabbath rest,
The heav’nly banquet of the blest;
The Lamb, their Lord,
At festal board
Himself is host and guest.

3 O blessed saints in bright array
Now safely home in endless day,
Extol the Lord,
Who with His Word
Sustained you on the way.
The steep and narrow path you trod;
You toiled and sowed the Word abroad;
Rejoice and bring
Your fruits and sing
Before the throne of God.
The myriad angels raise their song;
O saints, sing with that happy throng!
Lift up one voice;
Let heav’n rejoice
In our Redeemer’s song!


New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)   New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

1371.) Revelation 6

August 4, 2014
Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Revelation 6  (NRSV)

The Seven Seals

Here begins a series of chapters that describe God’s judgment.  The seven seals (6:1-8:5), the seven trumpets (8:6-11:19), and the seven bowls (15:1-16:21) all herald greater destruction.  These sets of seven do not form a single continuous story line, going from beginning to end, but, more like preachers’ illustrations, serve to emphasize a single point in increasingly intensive ways.  They share in this agreement:  God acts in history and will bring it to a just and imminent conclusion.

–Robert H. Conn

Then I saw the Lamb open one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures call out, as with a voice of thunder, “Come!”

The New Oxford Annotated Bible notes: 

“Come!” — the word can also be translated “Go!” — addressed successively to each of the four horsemen who accomplish God’s purposes.

I looked, and there was a white horse! Its rider had a bow; a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering and to conquer.

The white horse:  a conquering power that none can resist.  Many readers see the rider, who brings war, famine, and strife, as the antichrist.

When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature call out, “Come!” And out came another horse, bright red; its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people would slaughter one another; and he was given a great sword.

The red horse:  war and bloodshed.

When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature call out, “Come!” I looked, and there was a black horse! Its rider held a pair of scales in his hand, and I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a day’s pay, and three quarts of barley for a day’s pay, but do not damage the olive oil and the wine!”

The black horse:  famine, which follows the war.

When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature call out, “Come!” I looked and there was a pale green horse! Its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed with him; they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, famine, and pestilence, and by the wild animals of the earth.

The pale green horse:  pestilence and death.  (The rider of the fourth horse has entered popular culture as the Grim Reaper.)

Our modern age has seen hundreds of millions killed by dictators, war, and famine. Yet all that will pale in comparison to the death toll coming. No wonder Jesus said of this time — For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. (Matthew 24:21)

–David Guzik

Albrect Durer's woodcut "Four Horses of the Apocalypse", c. 1497 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC)

Albrect Durer’s woodcut “Four Horses of the Apocalypse”, c. 1497 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC)

The judgment human being experience they often inflict upon themselves — war, famine, hardship, and death: the afflictions of the four horsemen.

–Robert H. Conn

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slaughtered for the word of God and for the testimony they had given;

The souls of the martyrs are said to be “under the altar” because they had been sacrificed.  The idea is drawn from Leviticus 4:7 — And he shall pour the remaining blood at the base of the altar of the burnt offering.

10 they cried out with a loud voice, “Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?” 11 They were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number would be complete both of their fellow servants and of their brothers and sisters, who were soon to be killed as they themselves had been killed.

12 When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and there came a great earthquake; the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree drops its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. 14 The sky vanished like a scroll rolling itself up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. 15 Then the kings of the earth and the magnates and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb; 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”

Only the believer can stand before this great judgment, the one who is justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:1-2

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand.

 1 Corinthians 15:1

I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which you also received and in which you stand.

 1 Peter 5:12

Testifying that this is the true grace of God in which you stand.



Who can stand?  We can!  “Here in the love of Christ I stand.”  HERE  is “In Christ Alone” by Keith Getty (from Northern Ireland; he wrote the music) and Stuart Townend (from England; he wrote the words).  The hymn was released in 2001.


New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)   New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Images courtesy of:
four horses.    http://s4ctroops.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderpictures/148430226_ade95e2cbc.jpg


1370.) Revelation 5

August 1, 2014

Rev5 lion and lamb

Revelation 5  (NRSV)

The Scroll and the Lamb

Then I saw in the right hand of the one seated on the throne a scroll

The focus of Revelation 4 was the throne. Here, John begins with reference to the throne, but now shifts his focus to the scroll held by the enthroned Lord.

–David Guzik

written on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals; and I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it. And I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

The Messianic title Lion of the tribe of Judah comes from Genesis 49:9-10 –

You are a lion’s cub, Judah;
    you return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down,
    like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
The scepter will not depart from Judah,
    nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he to whom it belongs shall come
    and the obedience of the nations shall be his.

The title Root of David comes from Isaiah 11:10 –

In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.

Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne. When he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. They sing a new song:

– a new song because Christ has brought salvation through his sacrificial death.

“You are worthy to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God
    saints from every tribe and language and people and nation;
10 you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God,
    and they will reign on earth.”

11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 singing with full voice,

Rev5 Worthy is the Lamb

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”

13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing,

All of creation is caught up in praise to God and the Lamb!

“To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might
forever and ever!”

The Creator and the Redeemer are praised as equal in majesty.  (The New Oxford Annotated Bible)

14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the elders fell down and worshiped.

What have chapters 4 and 5 taught us about worship?

God is the center of all true worship.

God has all power, and is working through events on earth, no matter how things seem.

God exalts the humble as servants who guide the unfolding of divine history.

Nothing in the present, on heaven or on earth, has yet achieved its perfection; only Christ has proven completely worthy to God.

–Robert H. Conn



From verse 12:  Worthy is the Lamb . . .

HERE  is Darlene Zschech/Hillsong and “Worthy Is the Lamb.” 

OR –

HERE  is “Worthy is the Lamb” and “Amen” from Handel’s Messiah.  This is an “old-fashioned” performance by the Philarmonia Chorus & Orchestra, Otto Klemperer conducting — with a large orchestra and chorus and slower tempos.  But beautiful nonetheless.


New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)   New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Images courtesy of:
lion and lamb.     http://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/01457-lal.jpg


1369.) Revelation 4

July 31, 2014
"The Emerald Throne Scene in Heaven," by Pat Marvenko Smith

“The Emerald Throne Scene in Heaven,” by Pat Marvenko Smith  (Click on the picture and you will see it in larger form — it is beautiful!)

Revelation 4  (NRSV)

Throne-Vision and Seven Seals:

At this point, we enter a new phase in the unfolding drama, as John is caught up to heaven and granted privileged access to the heavenly throne-room.  This vision (which continues into chapter 5) inaugurates the opening of the seven seals (6:1-8:1), just as the vision of the exalted Christ in chapter 1 introduced the seven messages.  Thus 4:1-8:1 forms the second great cycle of sevens in Revelation.  But it is no less crucial for understanding the remaining visions of the book, acting as the orienting vision for the whole of chapters 4-22.  In these remaining chapters, a kaleidoscope of images and symbols will flash before the mind’s eye, presenting from different perspectives the character of the battle described in the preceding seven messages.  Revelation 4-5 provides as it were the appropriate perspective from which to view and make sense of what is happening on earth.  Here is a drawing back of the curtain which normally restricts humanity’s view of the heavenly realm.  John, and those privileged to hear his Apocalypse, are enabled to see the world in a radically new light.

–Ian Boxall

The Heavenly Worship

“Surely that which occupies the total time and energies of heaven must be a fitting pattern for earth.”
–Paul E. Billheimer

After this I looked, and there in heaven a door stood open! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the spirit, and there in heaven stood a throne, with one seated on the throne! And the one seated there looks like jasper and carnelian, and around the throne is a rainbow that looks like an emerald. Around the throne are twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones are twenty-four elders, dressed in white robes, with golden crowns on their heads. Coming from the throne are flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and in front of the throne burn seven flaming torches, which are the seven spirits of God; and in front of the throne there is something like a sea of glass, like crystal.

“A door stood open.”  Heaven is where God is acknowledged as King, and where true worship occurs.  But far from being separated from this world, it is intimately connected to it, for what is seen in heaven either has been or will be played out on earth.  Doors into heaven can be opened wherever God’s people are, though particularly when they are gathered for the eucharistic liturgy (3:20).  Heaven is never far away, for those with the eyes to see.

–Ian Boxall

Around the throne, and on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with a face like a human face, and the fourth living creature like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and inside. Day and night without ceasing they sing,

“Holy, holy, holy,
the Lord God the Almighty,
    who was and is and is to come.”

And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to the one who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall before the one who is seated on the throne and worship the one who lives forever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne, singing,

11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they existed and were created.”

Rev4 worship

Thoughts about WORSHIP

“Worship is our response to the overtures of love from the heart of the Father.”
–Richard J. Foster

“When I worship, I would rather my heart be without words than my words be without heart.”
–Lamar Boschman

“Worship changes the worshiper into the image of the One worshiped”
–Jack Hayford

“When we worship together as a community of living Christians, we do not worship alone, we worship ‘with all the company of heaven.'”
–Marianne H. Micks



HERE  is “Revelation Song” performed by Phillips, Craig and Dean.  Let’s worship “with all the company of heaven” as we listen.


New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)   New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Images courtesy of:
Smith.    http://www.davidisom.org/uploads/5/1/5/0/5150093/7755456_orig.jpg

1368.) Revelation 3

July 30, 2014
This painting of Christ knocking on the door, by Walter Sallman, hung on the living room wall of my house as I was growing up.  My Mother made sure we saw that there was no knob -- the door had to be opened to Christ from the inside.

This painting of Christ knocking on the door (Rev. 3:20), by Walter Sallman, hung in the living room of my house as I was growing up. My Mother made sure we children saw that there was no knob — the door had to be opened to Christ from the inside.

Revelation 3  (NRSV)

The Message to Sardis


Sardis was formerly the capital of the ancient Lydian Kingdom.  The wealth of Lydia and Sardis is legendary.  The Pactolus River there was said to have become rich in gold when the fabled King Midas of Phrygia bathed in its headwaters to rid himself of the “golden touch.”  The legend of the “Golden Fleece” supposedly originated from the method of laying sheep skins in the shallows of the Pactolus to collect gold particles.  The expression “rich as Croesus,” the last Lydian king, is used to indicate an extremely wealthy person.  Unsurprisingly, it was here in Sardis that coined money was invented. 

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars:

“I know your works; you have a name of being alive, but you are dead.”

G. B. Caird wrote that Sardis is “A perfect model of inoffensive Christianity.”

Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God.  Remember then what you received and heard; obey it, and repent.

What to do with a dying church? Jesus did not instruct Smyrna to go to a church growth conference in Philippi. He did tell them to remember what they had seen and heard. What they had heard was the basic message of the apostles. Jesus calls them back to the basics.

When Vince Lombardi tried to wake up his sleeping Green Bay Packers football team he called them back to the basics. He knew they needed to focus on the football basics of blocking and tackling. He took it to an extreme, held up a football and said: Gentlemen this is a football.

George Barna in his book Turnaround Churches profiles thirty churches that were about to die and made a turnaround. What he found in his study was that those churches that did turn about got back to the basics. The return to basic theology and simple ministry was refreshing for most people, even those who had been Christian for decades. The people could agree on the crux of their faith. They were returning to what is eternally significant, practical and encouraging.

–Brad Beaman

If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.Yet you have still a few persons in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes; they will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. If you conquer, you will be clothed like them in white robes, and I will not blot your name out of the book of life; I will confess your name before my Father and before his angels. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

The Message to Philadelphia

Rev3 Philadelphiachurch

Philadelphia had been built with the deliberate intention that it might become a missionary city. Beyond Philadelphia lay the wilds of Phrygia and the barbarous tribes; and it was intended that the function of Philadelphia should be to spread the Greek language, the Greek way of life, the Greek civilization, throughout the regions beyond.

–William Barclay

The only ancient remains in Philadelphia is the Church of St. John, which dates from about A.D. 600.  It was a huge domed basilica, but today all you see are the massive columns that held up the structure (pictured above.).

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:

These are the words of the holy one, the true one,
    who has the key of David,
    who opens and no one will shut,
        who shuts and no one opens:

“I know your works. Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.

Now Jesus opened the door for the Christians of Philadelphia to spread the culture of His kingdom through the whole region.

I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but are lying—I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.

Look at the features of the church in Philadelphia:

  • Evangelistic opportunity (I have set before you an open door)
  • Reliance on God (You have a little strength)
  • Faithfulness to Jesus (have kept My word, and have not denied My name)

In some ways, these features seem unspectacular. They should be commonplace among churches. Yet Jesus was completely pleased with this church. He had nothing negative to say to the church at Philadelphia.

Bible commentator Donald Barnhouse wrote: “The church of Philadelphia is commended for keeping the Word of the Lord and not denying His Name. Success in Christian work is not to be measured by any other standard of achievement. It is not rise in ecclesiastical position. It is not the number of new buildings which have been built through a man’s ministry. It is not the crowds that flock to listen to any human voice. All of these things are frequently used as yardsticks of success, but they are earthly and not heavenly measures.”

–David Guzik

11 I am coming soon; hold fast to what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. 12 If you conquer, I will make you a pillar in the temple of my God; you will never go out of it. I will write on you the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem that comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13 Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

The Message to Laodicea

Rev3 Pamukkale-Turkey

When I lived in Turkey I visited all the sites of the Seven Churches of the Revelation, and Laodicea is the one I remember most clearly!  Pictured above is the nearby town of Pamukkale (meaning “cotton castles” in Turkish), with its white terraces of white calcite travertine, a sedimentary rock left behind from the flowing thermal water.  These are hot springs, ranging in temperature from 95 to 212 degrees F.  It is stunning.  This place has been a resort for the rich and famous since Roman times.  So, for the Laodiceans to be told that you are only lukewarm, when you live next door to hot springs . . ouch!

14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the origin of God’s creation:

. . . meaning, the One whose word can be trusted.

15 “I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

The angel is neither cold nor hot, but merely tepid.  First-century Laodicean Christians would almost certainly pick up on the local allusion, for Laodicea was almost equidistant between Hierapolis (modern Pamukkale), with its hot thermal springs, and the cold-water springs of Colossae.  It was probably not the case that Laodicea’s aqueduct transported the hot water from Hierapolis to the north, as it comes into the city from the south.  But certainly one can see clearly from Laodicea the sulphurous waters cascading over Hierapolis’ terraces, forming those white “cotton castles” which give the city its modern name.  This local echo counts against the angel being criticized for spiritual lukewarmness, for loss of fervour (after all, surely it is better to be tepid in one’s commitment than completely cold).  Rather, the tepid water of Laodicea does not produce any obvious benefit, unlike the healing properties of the hot baths at Hierapolis Spa or the refreshingly cool drinking water available to the Colossians (both of which are equally beneficial).  The Laodicean angel has lost his effectiveness.

–Ian Boxall

17 For you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’ You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. 19 I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. 20 Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. 21 To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”



Verse 20 — Behold I stand at the door and knock.

HERE  is “Somebody’s Knocking at Your Door,” sung by Franklin Willis and arranged by Robert Nathaniel Dett.


New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)   New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Images courtesy of:
Sallman.    http://www.warnersallman.com/wp-content/themes/WarnerSallman/images/heartsdoorsmall.jpg
Sardis, Temple of Artemis.    http://bleon1.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/sardis_artemisdsc03359.jpg
church ruins in Philadelphia.    http://www.travellinkturkey.com/aegean/images/philadelphia01.jpg
Pamukkale, Turkey.    http://theworldwider.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Pamukkale-Turkey.jpg


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